2007 Bentley Continental GTC Preview

Upper-crust, Anglophile auto-lovers were initially introduced to the ragtop version of Bentley’s immensely popular Continental GT (the GTC-clever, no?) at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show. Even from the pictures, it was easy to fall in love. However, now that the New York Show has come and gone, we’ve had our chance to see and touch this piece of automotive jewelry-and it just makes us want one more.

The GTC is the fourth new model debuted since the 1999 renaissance of the Bentley brand (thanks to VW). Bentley Chairman Franz-Josef Paefgen and Design Chief Dirk van Braeckel-suspiciously non-English-sounding names-explained how the new convertible fits into the Bentley strategy; it slots in between the Continental GT and the Arnage sedan in this top-shelf lineup.

The technical details will have to take the place of an initial drive impression. Fans will be happy to know that power remains courtesy of a 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12, up a tad to 560hp. That’s enough horses (not to mention 479 lb.-ft. of torque) to push this convertible to sixty in 4.8 seconds, and hit a top speed of 195 m.p.h.-or 190 with the top down. The GTC thus joins a rarified group of supercars that are even capable of such velocity-basically a couple Ferraris and such. Further, the GTC is alone in the class of four-seat drop-tops capable of those numbers. The transmission remains a paddle-shifted, six-speed automatic.

The GTC retains a few old-school touches. Take a look at that soft-top-several layers of cloth and a glass rear window in the grand old tradition, not one of those trendy new folding hard-tops. Moreover, the tonneau is constructed of the finest (probably hand-stitched) cow-hide. Fortunately, the days of snapping those annoying covers are past-the GTC’s is automatically deployed.

All-wheel-drive remains standard, and Bentley says the convertible’s chassis, designed as a drop-top for Day 1, is about as stiff as the GET coupe’s is, roof or no. Torsional stiffness is said to be at 30Hz, which is impressive. Changes were made, however, to the rear air suspension, to address space and noise issues. Thinner front seat-backs add a smidgen more room in back, too. Otherwise the interior is essentially unchanged-walnut inlays, billet brightwork, and leather galore.

A rollover-protection system is fitted, with pop-up steel hoops and a stronger windshield frame. All the extras only add a couple hundred pounds to the package, however.

We expect the first dealer deliveries of the GTC to begin around October. Pricing has not been announced, but figure on several percentage points to be tacked on to the coupe GT’s tag. Still, that’s an awful lot of power, prestige, and pure exclusivity for appreciably less than $200 grand.

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